On the piste
February 4, 2013
Our elder daughter and boyfriend are doing a ski season in Arabba, Italy and so we went to visit for a weekend as they are about half way through now. Husband and I have never skied and had no desire to. The children were all lucky enough to go with school and were happy to have a couple of days free ski -ing so we flew to Venice and took a car up in to the mountains. It was dark by the time we arrived after hours of windy roads, and some hairy sliding but we rolled in to Arabba around six and found our hotel.
It had not occurred to me there would be such an Austrian/German influence in this Italian resort but that’s becuase my geography is shit. The hotel looked like a large cuckoo clock. It had been renovated circa 1972 and not again since. But the rooms were warm and clean.
The restaurant we went to the first evening was welcoming – an old fort or something I think – and we sat down in the candlelight. Apparently we were lucky as tonight was the special Aladdin menu. I couldn’t quite see the Disney connection, but vaguely wondered if Arabba was linked to Arabian. Our fluent daughter enlightened us. It wasn’t Aladdin, it was Ladin – the local dialect – like Catalan is to Spanish. D’oh.
We ate a hearty meal and got driven back to town to find a bar. The first one was too quiet so we found Stube. The place to be on a Thursday night in Arabba. A few of her friends were already installed and before we knew it youngest had taken over the decks and the joint was jumping. Another British holdiay maker stripped down to his underpants which were kindly whisked away by his girlfriend. This was quite a weekend away!
The floor was packed, but the clocks had struck time. The girls raised their hands in the air and started chanting “One more, one more”. Husband joined in with gusto “Waanker, waaanker” and asked one of the girls who they were meant to be abusing.
At some point during an evening, daughter asked again whether husband or I would like to go skiing. She could get us a lesson with someone nice. For reasons that I still can’t fathom I said OK then. I have never been physically adventurous. I never did sliding in the ice across the playground. I can’t skate. I can’t rollerblade. I can’t dive. I hate riding. Dangerous sports do not interest me. But before I knew it she had organsised a session with the head of the ski school.
Now of course, as all of you who have skied before will know, it’s not simply a case of turning up for a lesson. Oh no. There is kit to find and gear to hire. I had brought nothing. So had to borrow salopettes and a jacket, and hire all the rest.
I’d been warned about the boots and my feet are so fucking fat he had to try disabled boots. But eventually we found a pair that fitted. Well, I say fitted but it’s not exactly comfortable having your legs clamped in irons and bent forward.
The nursery slope beckons and I am introduced to Igor. He gets me walking in my boots in a circle, then skis are on and I have to walk in them. Eventually I am to lean forward on my poles with outstretched arms and then allow myself to slide down the small slope. Nice. I like it.
We discard the poles and he spends the next hour ski ing backwards in front of me teaching me how to snowplough and trying to get me to turn. Which I have difficulty with. “Drop your shoulder and bend your knee” – it is all unnatural to me. But what I love is just the going straight down. Obviously with him ready to catch me at any moment. And that’s the key for me. He makes me feel so safe I can enjoy it. Even when I inadvertently veer off to one side at speed, he is still there ready to hold my hand and save me.
It was awesome. Loved it. Am so glad I did it.
I am not someone for regrets but it did make me regret not doing it sooner. Not taking the children on family skiing holidays. I know we couldn’t have afforded it when they were young, but it would have been a great family holiday I imagine. Fresh air, exercise, joint endeavour, food and drink. And the scenery. Soooooooo stunning. I’ve never been to a ski resort before but was completely blown away by the Dolomites. Absolutely beautiful. Clear blue skies, sunshine, pure white snow. Incredible.
And I have to say, being the expert that I now am, I think this may be my sport. I mean, you ride all the way to the top of the mountain and then just whizz down. All the hard work is done for you isn’t it? Think I could get to like it.